The Chicago Blackhawks’ issues with the salary cap have been a constant concern, especially as their offseason continues. While there are undoubtedly be players that will have to be shed, there is one that should be given another chance.
By anyone’s standards, Chicago Blackhawks forward Dylan Strome had a subpar season. In general, Strome has had an up-and-down NHL career so far. While his 4 years in the league have produced some good numbers, he hasn’t quite been able to translate into the superstar that some might have expected out of a third overall draft pick.
Strome enters the offseason as a restricted free agent, and despite the concerns that have been voiced at times, I believe that Chicago should do everything in their power to get Strome inked. While the Blackhawks will only have a little over $8 million in cap space to work with entering the re-sign phase, General Manager Stan Bowman would be wise to extend Strome a qualifying offer.
Taking a look at Strome’s numbers this past season, they were not great, but that should not be a reason to look past his natural talent. The 23-year-old is in a period now where he really has to show that he is capable of producing consistent numbers over multiple seasons.
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2020 Regular Season
Part of the issue is that an attempt was made multiple times this season to move Strome from his natural center position to the wing. Strome has shown merely by his offensive numbers that he was more comfortable at center. While playing the wing, he scored only two goals, while at center, he racked up 23 points. Still not great, but definitely better than he ever was on the wing.
Strome is certainly a better player at center, even by his own admission. He vocalized his hesitation to play on the wing back at the beginning of the season, stating in October 2019 that:
"I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable yet, but I’m trying to get better every day at it. It’s something new to me. I think it’s a little bit less skating, it’s a bit you gotta hold onto the puck a little bit longer. I’m working on it, I’m trying to get better at it and hopefully I can continue to grow and be a good winger."
I think that Strome has also shown some of his best play when he is paired with Alex DeBrincat. The two played together in the OHL with the Erie Otters, and have both produced some of their best numbers with the Blackhawks when on the same line. Perhaps keeping the two together as much as possible would help the two of them get the most out of each other.
Besides playing with DeBrincat, there are a number of other line combinations that were tried with Strome this year. While he plays best with DeBrincat, there’s also a certain #88 that Strome obviously relished the chance to be on the ice with:
Assuming that he receives a new contract, it will probably only be for a year or two. Despite this, perhaps Strome’s agent will be able to work something out with Bowman and get the young gun to stick around Chicago for a little while longer, because this is a team that would be better off for it.
I’d grade Strome’s past season a C. While it wasn’t his best effort, I think that there are still great things that could potentially come from #17. Hopefully, when the puck drops for 2021, Strome will be on the Blackhawks bench, because if nothing else, he certainly deserves a chance to prove that he’s worth it.